POETRY: Guessing the Country
Charlie Neibergall / AP

“The U.S. government should

live within its means

just like the Coppola family does,”

Jack the custodian says.

 

“There is no free lunch

in industry—

why should there be one

in government?”

says Camille, the office associate.

 

I argue with them,

I throw everything I have into it.

 

Tea Party’s witch-hunt

of “big government”

is a smokescreen

for the Corporate Right

to give to the rich

and take from the poor.

 

If I can’t convince those

whom I work with,

whom can I win,

 

I ask myself

as we tumble on.

I try.

 

Obama comes after Bush

then Trump is elected

on that same damn program of supply side economics

and me, Jack and Camille are still here,

working the line.

 

Tax cuts to the rich,

creating the very whopping hole in the budget

Jack and Camille decried to me

so many years before,

bloody cuts to health care,

savage cuts to schools.

 

And when I see Jack

later in the lunch room,

new alligators in the swamp

he voted to be drained,

 

I tell him

I told you so.

 

But something tells me

it is not the end

but a continuing

conversation.

 

And if our argument remains

within this context,

too much is lost.

 

“What if I told you,”

I ask Camille and Jack

in the lunch room,

 

“of a people free to vote

for any government it wants

in a brave new world

of galloping rich and plummeting poor

 

unless it flouts the program

of a strange creature called

the International Monetary Fund,

its tentacles deep and long.

 

Then, the world’s biggest armies

go on red alert,

the most fearsome propaganda machine

on the face of the earth

having sprung into furious action.”

 

FREE TRADE!

A SHIRT MADE BY SOMEONE

AT 75 CENTS AN HOUR

MUST COMPETE AGAINST A SHIRT

MADE BY SOMEONE

AT $30 AN HOUR.

 

SLOW GROWTH AND LOW WAGES!

IF TOO MANY PEOPLE GET A GOOD JOB

WALL STREET STOCKS GO DOWN.

A COMPANY THAT LAYS OFF WORKERS

HAS PROVEN ITSELF TO BE A GOOD COMPANY.

 

SHRINK THE PUBLIC SECTOR!

ALL GOVERNMENT IS BAD.

PUT THE WEALTH BACK IN THE JAWS

OF THE MARKETPLACE.

 

DEREGULATE THE LABOR MARKET!

THERE WILL BE NO RULES OR MINIMUM STANDARDS

AND ANYBODY WHO GETS TOGETHER

WILL BE BEATEN DOWN.

 

“Well, I would say it’s awful,”

says Jack, the custodian.

“I would say I guess it stinks,”

says Camille, the office associate.

 

“In this country a right-wing cabal

emerges out of nowhere

to crusade against “big government.

 

“A movement for democracy and human rights

discovers it must fight

the banks and corporations

if it is to triumph.

 

“What if I told you all this

about a country?

What place would you say

it was?”

 

“Haiti, I guess,” says Jack.

“Russia,” says Camille.

 

“Wrong,” I say.

“Wrong—

and again wrong.

 

“Where have you guys been

all these years?” I ask.

 

“In an ivory tower?

On a tropical island?

 

“It is the same country where

companies downsize their workers

so the stock market can

skyrocket.

 

“It is the country where

the government

balances its budget

on the backs of the poor.

 

“It is the country where

unions are bashed

and a once heralded middle class

becomes fiction.

 

“It is the country where

big money is speech

and health care is

a prayer

 

“and every day the rich

grow richer,

and the poor

grow poorer.

 

“It is— —.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Chris Butters
Chris Butters

Chris Butters is a retired NYC court reporter, and a former DC 37 (AFSCME) chapter officer. Chris is a co-producer of WBAI-FM (Pacifica)'s Arts Express radio show. He has published two books and four chapbooks. His poetry has appeared in Blue Collar Review, and many other literary and left poetry magazines.

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR